Lotus Elan Central
Changing Engine Oil

This procedure runs through changing the engine oil on your Elan. The original oil weight for the Elan is S.A.E. 10W30, but the engine compartment sticker states you may use 5W30 as well. A check of the owner's manual states you may also use 15W-40 or 5W-50. I will leave the discussion of oil weights to another book! The Engine Oil refill (with filter) capacity is 3.7 US quarts (= 3.5 litres). For a list of oil filters see the common replacement parts page. Lotus recommends changing the engine oil AND filter every 6,000 miles (10,000Km) or 6 months, whichever comes sooner!

The oil should be changed after driving, while it is still warm. This assures the impurities are held in suspension.

Parts Needed:
4 quarts of engine oil
Oil filter
Crush washer (hint: tape crush washer to filter when you buy them so you don't lose it!)

Tools Needed:
Auto lift --or-- Jack and jack stands --or-- High-lift auto wheel ramps
Lug wrench (depends on above choice)
22mm socket
Oil catch pan
Oil filter wrench
Rubber gloves (if you're a sissy about hot oil)
A few shop rags to wipe the oil off the suspension arms
Newspaper to catch stray drips

The hard part of this procedure is figuring out a way to get the oil filter off!

The oil filter was located on the car for ease of access--NOT--actually I would like to ask the engine designers what they were thinking (or smoking perhaps) when they designed the oil filter at the rear of the engine?! Sure the drivetrain is from Isuzu and not specifically designed for the M100, but still this design is idiotic regardless of the car it goes into!

By far the easiest way to access the oil filter is to use an auto lift. But it is likely you do not have access to one. If you have a lift it is easier to reach the filter if you are able to let the right front suspension drop, but you can do it with it supported. Another way to get at the filter is to jack up the front of the car and remove the right front wheel--you can then shimmy yourself in from the side to reach up to the filter. The most claustrophobic way is to raise the front of the car either with auto ramps or with jacks and jackstands on both sides!

Also worth the investment is purchasing an oil filter wrench. Not the old strap-type, but the new socket-type which slip over the top end of the filter like a cap and will hook to your socket wrench for ease of reaching and turning the filter. Different filters use different size wrench caps so be sure you have the right one. You will be glad you have this item!

I recommend removing the oil filter first during the procedure. This way if you find you cannot get the filter off you can abort the procedure without a half-done job!

  • Warm up the engine. For best results, warm it up at high RPM on a fun backroad! Actually you want the engine warm but NOT hot as you will be reaching around a lot of metal parts to get to the filter!
  • Get yourself under the oil filter by any of the above discussed means!
  • Position the oil catch pan where you think the oil will go when you remove the filter.
  • Stretch your arm up and around the right front lower suspension and put the filter wrench over the filter--this is where all the swearing and yelling happens!!
  • Slowly unscrew the filter with the ratchet until the oil starts to drip out all over the suspension and down to the ground. If you are quick enough you will keep it from getting all over your arm, but novices beware!!
    Frantically reposition the catch pan to where the oil actually went.
  • Wait until all the draining and dripping has ended--then fully remove the old filter and set it aside. You may have to solve "the puzzle" of how to get the filter out from within the suspension, but I assure you it can be done.
  • Put a dab of oil on your finger and spread it around the rubber seal of the new filter. Or, as I do, you can just put the new filter onto the old one, so the gaskets meet up and touch all around, so the oil transfers to the new seal!!
  • Install the new filter as per tightening instructions on the box. I like to put a small piece of tape on the end of the new filter--this way I can see where it is when the new gasket makes contact with the car so I can tighten it just the right amount by watching the tape turn--then just pull off the tape!
  • Now is a good time to clean the fresh oil off the suspension parts and everywhere else it dripped!
  • Next move the catch pan where you think the oil will go when you remove the drain bolt.
  • Using a 22mm socket, remove the oil pan drain bolt (be careful not to burn yourself with hot oil). I like to put upward pressure on the bolt as I turn it so it doesn't leak oil; and then when I feel the threads disengage from the pan I quickly remove the bolt. If you drop the bolt into the catch pan you will find the real reason for the rubber gloves as you go blindly "bobbing for the bolt" in the hot oil!
  • Frantically reposition the catch pan to where the oil actually goes.
  • Discard the old crush washer that came off with the drain bolt--make sure it is the same size as the new one you have!
  • Reinstall the drain bolt into the oil pan using the NEW crush washer--torque the bolt so you "feel" the washer crush down. Do not over-tighten though or you can ruin the threads!!
  • Pour 3.5 quarts of new oil into the engine filler atop the cam cover.
  • Start the engine and let it run a bit to completely fill the new filter with oil. Be sure the oil pressure gauge rises up as expected just after starting!
  • Check for any leaks around the drain bolt or new filter. Wipe up the mess on the suspension around the filter and the drain bolt.
  • Reinstall the wheel, if needed, and Torque the lug nuts to 59-65 ft-lbs.
  • Lower the car back onto the ground.
  • Check the oil level at the dipstick and fill it to the full mark as needed. DO NOT OVERFILL the oil!
  • Clean up! Pour the old oil into the just used oil containers or another container of your choice.
  • Please dispose of the oil properly!
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